Like buffalo confronted by wolves, sportsmen have long relied on a herding instinct to survive daily attacks by anti-gun and animal rights groups.
The more radical the assault on hunters, shooters and anglers, the closer we stick together.
Never is this instinct more visible than on Election Day. Sportsmen are quick to spot predatory candidates charging from the long grass. Reacting by forming themselves into a tight group, sportsmen thunder to the ballot box and vote with an enthusiasm matched by few other blocs.
Our unified voice has made America's 90 million hunters, shooters and anglers into a trophy of modern politics. "From local school boards to the presidency, candidates have come to understand the importance of the sportsmen's vote. "Those who share our concerns gain our support. Those who don't face a sizeable obstacle to getting elected," said Doug Painter, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the 45-year-old trade association for the firearm industry.
NSSF, through its Hunting and Shooting Sports Heritage Fund, administers a program called Vote Your Sport, which reminds hunters and shooters of the diligence required as elections approach. Learn more at www.voteyoursport.org, a newly redesigned Web site dedicated to protecting America's hunting and shooting heritage and firearms freedoms.
Painter says the Vote Your Sport campaign is needed in 2006 more than ever, because opposing campaigns have become more covert, using deception and stealth tactics in an attempt to splinter the herd and advance their anti-gun agenda.
"The rhetoric can be moderate and appealing, but it pays to look beyond the words," said Painter. "For example, judged by name alone, there would seem to be little to fear from groups like the Humane Society of the United States, Americans for Gun Safety, even the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA). But the deeper you look, the more you find askew."
AHSA, in the news since positioning itself earlier this year as a group working to "restore pride in America's hunting and shooting heritage," is actually led by a cast entrenched in the anti-gun movement.
"AHSA's leadership is a Who's Who of personalities who've tried to sue, overregulate or smear our industry," said Painter. "They talk like a sportsmen's group, but they have yet to produce any program or on-the-ground accomplishment to 'walk the talk.' It's all a very thin veil, and I believe diligent hunters and shooters will see through it."
Painter stressed that, as elections near, sportsmen must continue to stick together and work as a group to understand all we can about the organizations, issues and candidates that are working to influence our way of life. An ideal place to start is www.voteyoursport.org.
FISHING HOT SPOTS
Lower Salt River (below Saguaro Lake):
Trout stockings in the Lower Salt River will resume during the first week of November. Remnant numbers of trout from previous stockings might be found in some of the deeper pools. Try inline spinners, Berkley Power Bait, marshmallow and salmon egg combo, or drifting nightcrawlers, red worms or crickets. Fly-fishing can be good with nymphs, peacock ladies and wooly buggers. Largemouth bass fishing can be good using crankbaits in back eddies and Texas-rigged worms or jigs near brush.